Home away from home: Bardo marks almost 60 years at Damascus auction

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DAMASCUS, Ohio – He just turned 75. An age most consider past retirement – when it’s time to hang up the hat and think of anything but working.

But Earl Bardo has a different approach. Instead of relaxing on his front porch or cruising the Caribbean, he can be found helping his sons run Bardo Farms or harvesting crops.

Auction. And on Tuesdays, Bardo has another job.

He works at the Damascus Livestock Auction in Damascus, Ohio, unloading stock and moving animals through the sale ring.

In fact, he has worked there for 57 years. He began in 1946, right out of high school, when the founder and first owner of the operation, Curtis Shreve, asked him to come and work for him. Bardo agreed and has worked at the auction ever since.

“I should quit, but I enjoy it,” he said, grinning wryly.

He is a man who has fun with life, standing around with several other workers, laughing and cracking jokes, waiting for the next trailer-load of cattle.

Sweat beads stand out on his weathered face and wavy, gray hair sticks out from under his beat-up cap. A strong man with deep laugh lines like plowed furrows, Bardo makes only one concession to his age: a well-used walking cane that doubles as a livestock prod.

Sign of the times. “It’s really changed a lot over the years,” he reminisced. “It used to be the whole barn was full.”

He remembers that for years the auction had to have two sales a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, to accommodate the livestock numbers. Today, sales take place only on Tuesdays.

According to Bardo, that’s not the only thing that’s changed. The auction used to see between 400-500 hogs a day. Now, only 40 or 50 come through the sale ring – on a good day.

“We used to sell as much in a day as we do in month,” he said.

Not discouraged. Nevertheless, the day after his 75th birthday, he could be found at the livestock auction.

From the manure-splattered loading dock with its white fence panels, to the sale ring littered with peanut shells thrown from spectators, he’s at home.

And he’s not the only one. Ginny Boyle, who works in the office of the Damascus Livestock Auction, has been there since high school as well. And while she hasn’t worked there as long as Bardo – she started in 1952 – she enjoys her work.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s fun. It’s completely different than anything else you do during the week.”

For Bardo, it doesn’t matter that it’s time to bail out over a protective gate when a fractious bull comes rumbling down the aisle toward the sale ring, wild-eyed and ready for anything. Or that the knees complain after a day on hard concrete.

He is happy right where he is – where he’s been for 57 years.

Bardo smiled. “Some days when things don’t go right, you wish you weren’t there. But then the next week, it’s just as good as always.”

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